Two weeks ago, late in the morning, Patrick Lento was alerted that an individual was found in the back King Street parking lot of Road to Recovery, a local treatment clinic for patients suffering from opioid dependency.
The individual was unresponsive and had clear signs of an Opioids overdose. “I quickly assessed him and based on the signs and the symptoms that I seen, diluted pupils, sweating, blue lips and fingernails, basically no respiration’s, very faint heartbeat, next to nothing – I felt comfortable giving a dose of naloxone” Lento said, a practical nurse at the Road to Recovery, a Methadone and Suboxone clinic on Queen Street, downtown.
After a few minutes the person was breathing and the pulse was getting better. The paramedics arrived and transported the person to hospital. A rare occurrence in Sault Ste. Marie but it could become a bigger problem.
Lento deals with the affects of opioids each day dealing with a broad section of society who have become addicted to some sort of opioid, drugs used mainly for pain relief. Naloxone (available in a kit and free at any pharmacy) is administered to block the effects of opioids.
“It’s very hard to get numbers because there’s so much stigma about drug use” said Desiree Beck a Sault Ste. Marie and Area drug strategy committee l. “I think the thing to remember is not everyone are buying these drugs illicitly, there’s a lot of people prescribed opioids and using them not according to how the Doctor told them, if you’re not using them as prescribed, there’s a risk of overdosing,l ”
“Overdoes usually don’t happen in the open, they happen behind closed doors” said Lento, pushing some health officials across Canada to have naloxone more readily available and to educate people on how to administer it.
Beck said there’s a misconception that drug use is often pegged as an issue of poverty, when in reality there’s a good amount of people in this community that are well off and they use drugs, and it’s not that using the drug is bad, it’s how to use them properly
Vancouver has become a hotbed for opioid overdoses and death. People in larger centres seem to be dropping in parking lots and public places on a daily basis. That reality is now showing up in places like Sault Ste. Marie and it’s shocking to most people who witness it.
British Columbia’s health officials are considering plans to offer an overdose reversing drug online and urging drug users not to use alone after an 88 per cent increase in deaths.
Chief coroner Lisa Lapointe said many of the 780 fatalities between January and June were among people who died alone. There were 414 deaths during the same period last year.”People in small towns may not have easy access to naloxone, or everybody may know your business and you may not want people to know that you’re the local school teacher and you use illicit drugs,” she said.
Opioids have also started to show up in other hard street drugs like Heroin said Katrina ylReed, the other RN at the clinic. “We’ve had patients who thought they were buying heroin and in fact it wasn’t heroin at all but it was fentanyl” Reed said.
Many of the deaths across Canada can be contributed to fentanyl , which is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.”when you’re craving drugs, you’re not going to sit around and feel awful, you’re going to go out and find them” Beck said.
Road to Recovery’s mission is to facilitate a significant change in the patient’s life from daily opioid use, to a life in which they have made an active commitment to change. Ultimately this leads to improvements to their health, social relationships and employment. “addiction starts somewhere and a lot of the times, it comes from legitimate pain”
And that’s the catch 22 in the whole situation. Opioids are prescribed to manage pain, but depending on the person, addiction can easily set in if not taken properly or mixed with other drugs.
Many of the deaths across Canada can be contributed to fentanyl, which is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.
” by nature are a very addictive drug, but they do work for pain” Beck said, “But they are a miracle drug when you’re recovering from surgery” Linto added. Withdrawal from using the drug can also an issue. “it’s a domino effect” Often times, the body will present different symptoms, like withdrawal from any drug use.
“There’s not enough education about drugs, we’re very quick to say drugs are bad and we shouldn’t do them, but when someone is prescribed an opioid, there’s not enough information or education when the patient leaves the hospital – you don’t have the doctors and nurses helping you, so there’s not enough support for that”
That’s where the team at Road to Recovery come in. The clinic is owned and operated by Dr. Brian Taylor who runs several other clinics in central Ontario. Dr. Taylor’s medical training from the University of Toronto, and has experience with treating patients with Methadone and Suboxone. Road to Recovery is staffed by nurses who live in the Sault and are experienced and educated in treating patients in a secure and confidential manner. Road To Recovery Clinics attempt to liaison with groups within the city who have similar intentions: social workers, Algoma Public Health , Canadian Mental Health Association and Group Health Centre.
“We’re not here to judge people, we’re going to give you Methadone or Suboxone on our program properly, we’re going to have you assessed by registered staff every time you come in, you’re going to see our physician once a week and even if this person doesn’t stop using drugs we’re providing them with a medication that maybe today will mean they won’t have to go and buy drugs” Reed said.
To find out more about what the Road to Recovery Clinic can do and hours of operation visit roadtorecovery.clinic
-with files from the Canadian Press